This article by Chris Knapp, the Director of Built-Environment Practice, originally appeared on Australian Design Review as “The End Of Prefabrication”. Knapp calls for the end of prefabrication as a driver for design, pointing out its century-long failure to live up to its promise, as well as newer technology’s ability to “mass produce difference”.
Prefabrication – there is not another word in the current lexicon of architecture that more erroneously asserts positive change. For more than a century now, this industrial strategy of production applied to building has yielded both an unending source of optimism for architecture, and equally, a countless series of disappointments. This is a call for the end of prefabrication.
Read on after the break
After being relegated to storage facilities for much of its lifetime, proposals to relocate the Aluminaire House seem to be picking up steam. The project, which was the first all-metal house in the United States, originally stood as a symbol for architectural modernism in a rapidly urbanizing New York.
Prefabrication has long been heralded as a possible way to infill New York’s vacant sites; however, it has only recently become a solid practical solution rather than an experimental concept. Riding the crest of the wave of new prefabricated housing is GLUCK+ (formerly Peter Gluck & Partners), in collaboration with developers Jeffrey Brown and Kimberly Frank. Together they have begun construction on one of New York’s first prefabricated steel and concrete residential buildings.
Read more about this and New York’s recent wave of prefabricated buildings after the break…
Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture will present “COLD war COOL digital,” an exhibition of 20 scaled prototypes of modernist, pre-fabricated, and globally-distributed Cold War era housing systems that were created using contemporary 3D printing technologies (opening reception 2/18 at 6:15, details below). The exhibition will investigate architectural modernism and its global influence and will connect with contemporary prototype pre-fabrication methods and digital research in housing and skyscraper design. A symposium that explores the technical, aesthetic, and political aspects of prototyping and pre-construction in architecture will be held tonight in conjunction with the exhibition.
Continue reading for more details…
Prefabricated design has come to be known as a fast, green, and cost-efficient way to create buildings. Although this technique has most prominently been used with small residential structures, it’s now taken a turn towards greater, larger projects. With prefabricated towers and skyscrapers now in the works (and, in some cases, going up in as little as six days), pre-fab begs the question: is it really safe? Does quick production time lead to instability, making prefabricated buildings more likely to collapse?
Read more after the break.
If you’re at all immersed in the design world, you already know the name of Danish-American furniture designer Jens Risom. And, if you know Jens Risom, you most certainly know the mid-century, pre-fab house he designed and built on an isolated island 13 miles off the coast of New England.
The house, which has stood on Block Island for 45 years with relatively little renovation, despite the island’s notoriously powerful gales of wind, defies the stereotype that pre-fabricated buildings can’t be built to last (or beautifully designed). Indeed, Risom only attempted the venture because of the “personal freedom” that pre-fabrication afforded him. As he explains: “Architecture, to me, is the most beautiful of the arts. But I watched my father [an architect] struggle with the challenges, what was to me an enormous drawback: The architect did not fully drive the end product. I always knew that I wanted to design, but only [if I could] create products over which I had total control.”
More on this extraordinary home and its designer, after the break…
Despite reports that construction firm Broad Sustainable Building (BSB), a subsidiary of Broad Group, could not complete its 220-story Sky City tower in 90 days, the company’s senior VP Juliet Jiang has announced that the skyscraper “will go on as planned with the completion of five storeys a day.”
Thus, rather than in seven months, the world’s tallest tower (838 m; 2,750 ft) will be finished in three – topping out at the end of March 2013.
As we’ve discussed before here on ArchDaily, the tower could truly be revolutionary in China; Broad Group’s 95% prefabricated modular technology, which is responsible for the incredible rate of construction, is also radically environmentally-friendly, earthquake-safe, and cost-effective. In fact, Sky City, designed by engineers who worked on the Burj Khalifa, will cost a tenth of that famous skyscraper (only $1,500 per square meter) – and take a twentieth of the time to build.
More info on the world’s tallest tower, after the break…
Beyond the “Made In China” Mentality: Why China’s Innovation Revolution Must Embrace Pre-Fab Architecture
When Wired correspondent Lauren Hilgers arrived to Broad Town, the headquarters of the Broad Sustainability Group in Changsha, China, she soon realized that this was not your typical workplace environment. At Broad Town, employees must be able to run 7.5 miles over the course of 2 days; recite company “policy” – covering everything from how to save energy to how to brush your teeth – at a moment’s notice; and refer to their boss as “my chairman.”
It may sound strict, but the workers at Broad are on a higher mission. The CEO and founder of the company, Zhang Yue, a.k.a the chairman, doesn’t just consider himself the head of a construction company, but of a “structural revolution.”
In a few years, Zhang has turned the world of skyscraper design on its head, pushing the technical and structural capabilities of pre-fabrication to its utmost (perhaps you’ve heard of the 30-story hotel he built in just 15 days). Not only do Broad’s techniques save time and money, they represent a potentially game-changing opportunity for China to maintain its unfathomable rate of growth in a way that’s both safe and sustainable.
But where does innovation enter in this revolution? China, for years an intellectual playground for Western architects, has become increasingly concerned with nurturing its own latent intellectual capital. However, if Broad’s paradigm takes hold (which, pragmatically-speaking, it should), what will that mean for architectural innovation? In a world of pre-fab structures, can architecture exist?
The traditional wooden construction of Japanese architecture is extremely detailed. Its exacting precision and craftsmanship has stood the test of time for centuries. However, the process of handcrafting each wooden beam with mortises and tenons is quite labor intensive, and with an aging workforce, automation of the production process is key to continuing the tradition.
Prefabricated design has been around since at least the 1940’s, but has lately seen resurgence in popularity. By assembling off-site, prefab gives homebuyers attractive alternatives to the standard residential developments that have become commonplace. While prefabricated homes are not without their disadvantages, they are an interesting component of the post-housing bubble residential market. More on prefab design after the break.
Imagine taking your Google Sketchup creation for a house and having it milled out and assembled all within 24 hours. WikiHouse, an Open Community project that puts you in the driver’s seat of design and construction has recently unleashed the opportunity for anyone to realize their own vision of architecture.
Architect: Vicens + Ramos / Ignacio Vicens y Hualde, José Antonio Ramos Abengózar
Location: Ponferrada, Leon, Spain
Collaborators: Fernando Gil, Desirée González, Pablo Gutiérrez, Joaquín Esperón, Romina Barbieri, Raúl Rodríguez, Tibor Martín, Patricia de Elena, Javier Margarit, Joan Ramon Cornellana
Project Year: 2006-2010
Photographs: Pablo Vicens
The idea behind the ESCLISE Mobile Design Home was to deliver a complete house with complete outer and inner finishing, installations and furniture. Thus volume and configuration of the structure results from transportation possibilities. The house is delivierd in two parts: upper and bottom part. Complete finishing of the two parts and carefully designed junction details allows a quick and easy installation in abput two hours by two workers + crane operation.
Further information and photos after the break.